Stars From The Young And The Restless You Didn't Know Died

When the 1970s swept in after the preceding decade, America bore social scars inflicted by political assassinations, the Vietnam War, and a floundering flower-power movement. Pop culture rushed to incorporate that turbulence in movies, music, and TV.  Soap operas, however, continued to offer more escapist romantic fare that "Days of Our Lives" writer William Bell wanted to replicate with a new sudser, "The Innocent Years." That was, until he and his staff second-guessed themselves. "Something terribly obvious occurred to us that in 1972, there were no more innocent years," said Bell to the Television Academy Foundation. His about-face resulted in the more topical "The Young and the Restless," which launched in 1973 and started tackling timely issues from adultery to addiction, a formula that still generates its provocative storylines nearly 50 years after its launch.

Chronicling the goings-on in Genoa City, Wisconsin, "Y&R" still stays current, having introduced elements from interracial relationships to LGBTQ+ awareness. Over the years, the show has also shifted the original family feud premise from involving the opulent Brooks and the hard-done-by Fosters to today's heated rivalry between the powerful Abbott and Newman clans. Not surprisingly, the cast has also shifted over time, with actors and characters either retiring or exhausting their story arcs to be replaced by younger players with fresher stories to share. Sadly, some of those who left, from steady players to celebrities, have also departed this earth, leaving behind some fond memories for loyal fans.

Gary Collins (1938-2012)

Gary Collins could lay claim that he ran the gamut of acting portrayals by playing Harry Curtis for two episodes of "The Young and the Restless" back in 2000. Arguably, his brief presence was hardly pivotal, since it had little effect on the steamy subplots percolating throughout the series. But then again, few thespians could add both soap opera player and talk show host to the eclectic array of portrayals in his portfolio. His Emmy win and additional nominations all came from his nine-year tenure behind the desk of "Hour Magazine," an '80s syndicated afternoon daytime interview and variety show which Collins viewed as an "alternative to the confrontational, hard-edged tabloid shows" at the time.

He demonstrated his other chops, particularly in acting, that previously manifested themselves in '60s shows like the wartime comedy "The Wackiest Ship in the Navy" and the short-lived Western "Iron Horse," both featuring him as a supporting player. In the '70s, his roles grew even more diverse, from playing real-life conservationist George Adamson in "Born Free" to a paranormal psychologist in "The Sixth Sense." Yet he still found time once a year to host the Miss America Pageant from 1982 to 1990. Interestingly, his wife was Mary Ann Mobley, who won that title back in 1959. And while he had appeared in spots in several prime-time shows, after "Hour Magazine," Collins wound up playing himself in walk-ons from "Friends" to "General Hospital." Collins died at 74 from natural causes.

Jeanne Cooper (1928–2013)

Like most soaps, "The Young and the Restless" had more than its share of betrayals and deceptions, but anyone who crossed the formidable Katherine Chancellor, played by Jeanne Cooper, rarely got away with it unscathed. Katherine Chancellor was an adulteress and alcoholic who inherited the Chancellor Industries estate when her husband died. Much of her time was spent protecting the family fortune from those who sought to claim it, including Jill Foster, her manicurist who somehow climbed her way up Genoa City's A-list hierarchy. Chancellor's war with Foster turned out to be one of the longest-running feuds in soap opera history.

Fortunately, Cooper's ascent to stardom was far less tempestuous, having joined the legendary soap's lineup in 1976, after cameos in a few televised '50s westerns, from "The Adventures of Kit Carson" to "Tales of Wells Fargo." Cooper also landed appearances in several live network TV theater productions, followed by TV cameos on the likes of "Perry Mason," "Hawaii Five-O," and "Ironside." She remained a major character on "Y&R," earning 10 Daytime Emmy nominations (and one Daytime win) until her death from an undisclosed illness at 84. Accounts from her colleagues on the set indicated she was a witty and supportive member of the cast, especially when it came to helping some of the show's younger players. "Jeanne was the matriarch of the show in every sense of the word," said Lauralee Bell, a fellow actor and daughter of series creators William and Lee Bell, to CNN.

Abby Dalton (1932–2020)

Actor Abby Dalton had a brief arc on "The Young and the Restless" in 1995, but it was one that answered a lot of questions about a major character. Dalton played Lydia Summers Callahan, who visited Genoa City with her husband to reconnect with her daughter Phyllis, who left their home years ago to seek her fortune. It didn't turn out to be a happy reunion, since upon their meeting, Dalton's character dismissed her daughter as a disappointment, years after being apart. After taking all that in, Phyllis made sure the Callahans left town quickly and as far under the radar as possible, given the daughter's growing list of scandals. Viewers were then able to fill in a few critical blanks regarding the notorious Phyllis Summers Newman, one of the more controversial characters in the series.

Dalton was well-prepared for that short stay on "Y&R," having played winemaker Julia Cumson, who frequently locked horns with devious vineyard baroness Angela Channing on the prime-time soap "Falcon Crest" back in the '80s. But where she really earned her stripes was her portrayal of Navy nurse Lt. Martha Hale several years earlier in the military and medical drama "Hennessey," which resulted in Dalton receiving an Emmy nomination. As proof that her comedic skills were also sharp, she spent four seasons as the spouse of a talk show host on "The Joey Bishop Show" during the '60s. In 2020, Dalton died after a lengthy illness at 88.

Jerry Douglas (1932-2021)

By 1980, a new dynamic in the wars for supremacy in Genoa City surfaced with the emergence of Jabot Cosmetics, founded by daring entrepreneur John Abbott, initially played by Brett Halsey until Jerry Douglas permanently took over the role. From that point on, Abbott and his family would square off against the dreaded Newman clan that operated Newman Enterprises in a power struggle that not only laid the Brooks and Foster feud of old to rest, it also propelled "Y&R" to the top of the soap ratings heap in 1988. Abbott was no slouch on the corporate frontlines or even in the bedroom, convincing himself that such actions were essential for the best interests of his family.

For more than 30 years, Douglas played Abbott, easily his most stable gig throughout his showbiz career. Previously, he was so much in demand for cameos, his presence in prime-time dramas like "Mission: Impossible" and "Mannix" involved taking on different roles each time he showed up in each series. On "The FBI," he nabbed four different character portrayals during its six-season run starting in 1967. That versatility proved to "Y&R" producers that Douglas possessed the right stuff to play such a complex character as John Abbott. "His contribution to the legacy of 'Y&R' as Abbott family patriarch John Abbott is still felt to this day," said executive producer Anthony Morina (per The Hollywood Reporter) about Douglas, who died in 2021 after a short illness at 88. "He will be sorely missed."

Bonnie Franklin (1944-2013)

One of the most heavily publicized guest roles in the history of "The Young and the Restless" took place in 2012 when Bonnie Franklin took an 11-episode part as Sister Celeste, a gutsy, streetwise nun who comes to the aid of feared entrepreneur Victor Newman. To viewers, Franklin going the ecclesiastical route on "Y&R" came across as a stretch, given that she was best remembered in a portrayal that was as far from a convent as '70s television would allow. Back then, Franklin shook up the small screen in the sitcom "One Day at a Time," playing Anne Romano, a divorced mother of two and an avowed feminist. While men may have been uncomfortable with the series, which ran for nine years after its 1975 launch, it connected with women at a time when divorce rates were starting to spike. Before landing the show, Franklin cut her teeth in cameos on programs from "Gidget" to "Hazel." After the comedy's run, Franklin did one-offs in shows like "Touched By an Angel," "Hot in Cleveland" and "Y&R," which would mark her final TV appearance. 

Upon hearing of Franklin's death at 69 from pancreatic cancer in 2013, "One Day at a Time" co-star Valerie Bertinelli commented, per Los Angeles Times: "Bonnie has always been one of the most important women in my life and was a second mother to me ... I will miss her terribly." Fellow cast member Mackenzie Phillip chimed in on Twitter, "Remembering my friend. Rest in peace. Bonnie Franklin."

Bruce Gray (1936-2017)

If you judged Bruce Gray's soap experience strictly by his four-episode arc in 1986 on "Young and the Restless" as blink-and-miss minor character Mark Wilcox, you'd assume he wasn't particularly prolific in that department. Ditto for his six appearances on "General Hospital," and the four cameos he had in the short-lived daytime drama "Somerset." That said, Gray was far more active in that genre as Owen Madison, whose daughter Paige was fighting a weapons and conspiracy charge for several weeks during the 1979-'80 season of the now-defunct sudser "The Edge of Night."

Still, soaps were merely slippery chunks of an iceberg-sized portfolio that the Canadian actor had assembled after several years on both sides of the border. In the U.S., Gray was best known for playing the confused patriarch in the 2002 comedy "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." In his native Canada, he earned kudos galore in the prime-time drama "Traders," about a Toronto-based investment banking firm fighting off takeovers from global competitors. Stateside, he landed recurring roles in TV shows like "How I Met Your Mother" and "Medium."

His skills were never taken for granted by those who worked with him, including a colleague from an independent Canadian flick he did. "Bruce was not only an amazingly talented actor, but an incredible role model on set," said movie producer, Alyson Richards, to The Hollywood Reporter. "He charmed the entire cast and crew of 'Don't Talk to Irene' with his warmth, generosity and incredible wit."

David Hedison (1927–2019)

For nearly three months in 2004, fans of "The Young and the Restless" sat in front of their small screens with rapt fascination over how Judge Arthur Hendricks, played by David Hedison, was going to alter the arc trajectories of business matriarch Katherine Chancellor and her chief rival, Jill Abbott. During that period, the magistrate shared scenery with both of them, which led to the big reveal that he was the father of one of Chancellor's children. For a minor "Y&R" minor player, plots rarely got as juicy as that discovery. Hedison demonstrated that in the twilight of a career spanning a half-century when he took on the part, he could rise to the occasion when circumstances warranted such a reaction.

It was also a far cry from the more action-oriented fodder that originally made Hedison famous in the '60s, capped by his portrayal of nuclear submarine captain Lee B. Crane in the sci-fi series "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea." He also scored the titular role in the original version of "The Fly" back in the '50s and starred in another arcane flick concerning dinosaurs populating the Amazon in "The Lost World." Despite such a background, Hedison was offered the role of Mike Brady in the sitcom "The Brady Bunch" in 1969, but in a frequently replicated quote, he responded: "I turned it down because after four years of subs and monsters, who needs kids and dogs?" Hedison died from an undisclosed illness at 92.

Beau Kayser (1951–2014)

One of the more hedonistic characters in "The Young and the Restless" was Brock Reynolds, the oft-mentioned son of Katherine Chancellor who initially spent time in a sex- and drug-fueled cloud overseas until his first appearance in 1977, portrayed by Beau Kayser. Back home in Genoa City, Reynolds wound up bedding several "Y&R" characters, until a spiritual awakening some years later converted him into a reformed Christian, which enabled him to help his mother, by then an alcoholic struggling with her health and hanging onto the family fortune. His moralistic morphing also helped deal with the discovery that one potential love interest, Jill Foster, turned out to be a half-sister. Through all the escapades, Reynolds remained a righteous character until Kayser left the series in 2013, roughly the same time that Jeanne Cooper (who played Chancellor) died.

Starring in "Y&R" comprised the majority of Kayser's acting credentials, although he periodically took time off throughout the series, often scripted as Reynolds leaving for more fun and games away from Genoa City. During that downtime, he'd often get work on other shows, such as playing recurring character Dr. Bunny Willis on "General Hospital." The Toronto native also managed to snare a few one-offs in prime-time offerings that ranged from "B.J. and the Bear" to "Hart to Hart." Kayser also scored an appearance as a soap opera dude in the Martin Scorsese classic "Taxi Driver" in 1976 before his lengthy tenure on "Y&R." He died at 63 from an undisclosed illness.

George Kennedy (1925–2016)

George Kennedy's character Albert Miller, Victor Newman's biological dad, provided an insight over how the CEO of Newman Enterprises garnered his ruthless temperament on "The Young and the Restless." Back when Victor was a kid answering to the name Christian Miller, Albert inexplicably ditched the family, forcing his wife to give her son to an orphanage, where he eventually morphed into Victor Newman. Fast forward to 2003: When Victor finally confronted his pops over his actions years earlier, an ugly exchange that was par for the course on "Y&R" unleashed.

Nostalgia buffs might have found Kennedy's portrayal closer to the heavies he played in his earlier years on Westerns like "Bonanza" and "Gunsmoke," until he demonstrated he could play a baddie with a heart in the 1967 prison outing "Cool Hand Luke," which scored him a best supporting actor Oscar. From that, his fame grew with his portrayal of savvy ground-crew administrator Joe Patroni in the "Airport" series, the only actor to be cast in all four of the franchise's flicks. He also demonstrated how his deadpan approach to comedy could generate laughs as a police captain in "The Naked Gun" trilogy. The World War II veteran would wind up playing more than 200 parts in a wide range of movies and TV shows, spanning some 50 years. "Ever since I was a little boy," he said, per The New York Times, "my primary heroes were movie stars." He died at 91 from health and age-related causes.

Terry Lester (1950–2003)

On "The Young and the Restless," Peter Bergman plays Jack Abbott as a hard-nosed magnate of Jabot Cosmetics, while retaining a heartfelt connection to his friends and family. But longtime watchers recall an entirely different Jack, who was a devious playboy, portrayed by Terry Lester from 1980 to 1989. In a decade when Reaganomics ruled and yuppies controlled the financial world with an arrogant, upward mobility attitude, Jack was the perfect scandalous soap icon. Onscreen, the young Jack was a total pain in the butt to his relatively more reserved father John, but the late Jerry Douglas, who played the elder Abbott, said that Lester added a critical intensity to the role. "Terry had an edge, where he could play Jack as a heavy and get away with it," said Douglas to Soap Opera Digest. "You just loved to hate him."

According to She Knows Soaps, Lester quit the show when his character became more lower profile than Christine "Cricket" Blair, even though he apparently harbored no resentment toward its portrayer Lauralee Bell, the daughter of "Y&R" creators William and Lee Bell. But he wasn't out of work for long, grabbing a recurring character stint for a season on "Santa Barbara," followed by a similar part on "As the World Turns" for two seasons. He would also land cameos on "Star Trek: Voyager," "JAG," "Diagnosis Murder," and "Walker, Texas Ranger" before suddenly dying of a heart attack at 53.

Della Reese (1931–2017)

An entertainment figure who was as prominent in music as she was in television, Della Reese appeared in two episodes in 2009 as Devon Hamilton's Aunt Virginia on "The Young and the Restless," which included a brief appearance at a wedding. Suffice to say, she had little to do with changing any significant arcs in the show or adding any more drama than what the soap already possessed. But fans had already known Reese via her nine-season tenure on "Touched By an Angel," as Tess, a supervisor to a neophyte angel named Monica. That gig was the most lucrative one in her lengthy career that first saw her emerge as a gospel and R&B singer during her youth. Those first ripples of stardom started in 1957 with "And That Reminds Me," a song she recorded for a New York indie label that became a national hit and led to an RCA recording contract and regular Las Vegas gigs.

Her crossover into television started in 1968 with a cameo on "The Mod Squad," followed by the short-lived "Della," marking the first time an African American woman ever hosted a national talk show. Following other walk-ons on shows like "Sanford and Son" and "Columbo," Reese landed her first regular TV gig on "Chico and the Man," a hit sitcom that ran for three seasons until its star Freddie Prinze died in 1978. She gravitated toward made-for-TV movies and video game voice-overs before she died at 86.

Isabel Sanford (1917–2004)

The last TV role ever portrayed by Isabel Sanford in front of "The Young and the Restless" cameras was in one 2002 episode as Sylvia, a homeless person who lectures another character on the importance of family. That poignancy likely acknowledged her own family, which in later years included two sons, seven grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. And then there was her best known TV family in "The Jeffersons," a topical '70s sitcom about an African American family that ascended the stairway to prosperity via a lucrative dry cleaning business. On the show, she played Louise Jefferson (whom her husband George affectionately called "Weezie"), a role that saw Sanford break the color barrier in being the first Black woman to ever receive an Emmy in the best comedy actress category. Throughout the series, she played the voice of reason to her bullheaded husband, but between takes, other actors saw an even more engaging side to her. "Isabel was our queen and that's what we called her on the show," said castmate Marla Gibbs to CBS News.

Sanford first made it to the big screen in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" in 1967, later landing frequent appearances on "The Carol Burnett Show," before playing Louise Jefferson in "All in the Family," the sitcom that spawned "The Jeffersons." After that "Y&R" cameo, Sanford did one more TV gig, playing herself in a voiceover for "The Simpsons" in 2004. She died later that year at 86 of natural causes.

Kristoff St. John (1966-2019)

As Neil Winters, Kristoff St. John was one of the most popular actors on "The Young and the Restless," ever since his start on the series in 1991. With his arc beginning as an employee of Jabot Cosmetics, it wasn't long before Winters found himself immersed in the Genoa City A-list and the never-ending drama surrounding the Abbotts, Newmans, and Chancellors. His romantic dalliances were extensive, from Victor Newman's ambitious daughter Victoria to the aunt of his foster son Devon Hamilton. Even after leaving Jabot for Newman Enterprises to the CEO office of Chancellor Industries, he still couldn't escape the drama. 

In 2019, St. John was found dead from what was later determined to be hypertrophic heart disease, less than five years after his son Julian had committed suicide. His ex-wife Mia told Today that the 52-year-old actor struggled with his son's death and felt responsible for how his life ended. As for the "Y&R" cast, most felt they'd lost a great friend. "Kristoff was more than a nice guy," said Eric Braeden, who played Victor Newman, to The Daily Beast. "People loved him. He was a fundamentally nice man, and always there for people. He was just a man with soul."

Besides "Y&R," St. John started out as a child actor, landing initial appearances on "That's My Mama" and "Happy Days," before playing a younger version of author Alex Haley in the miniseries "Roots: The Next Generation."

Paul Walker (1973–2013)

From "The Young and the Restless" to "The Fast and the Furious," few soap actors took the fast lane to Hollywood like Paul Walker. And while the supercar franchise made Walker's name synonymous with speed, it was the velocity that contributed to an accident that killed him. Walker was only 40 when a Porsche driven by a friend crashed, ending the lives of both occupants, per CNN. The young star was the biggest draw in five "Fast and Furious" flicks, which had become one of the biggest money-making motion picture franchises of all time, and was already shooting the sixth movie when the accident occurred.

But several "Y&R" fans saw a handsome and skilled actor with a promising future back in 1993 when he played Brandon Collins, a mailroom employee at Newman Enterprises who had his eye on Victoria Newman. "He was just so unpretentious," said Eric Braeden, who played Victoria's tycoon father Victor, to CBS affiliate KCAL-TV. "An easy-going, Southern California guy. I've worked with quite a few young people over the years. But I had a feeling, that he would make it on the big screen."

Before "Y&R," Walker landed spots in B-movie action outings like "Monster in the Closet" and "Programmed to Kill," before nailing a recurring role in the short-lived "Throb" and one-offs on sitcoms like "Charles in Charge" and "Who's the Boss?" Ironically, the first TV gig he ever landed was playing in three episodes of "Highway to Heaven."

Marcia Wallace (1942–2013)

In 2009, Marcia Wallace showed up in 14 episodes of "The Young and the Restless" in one of the more colorful conspiratorial plots of the series. She played Annie Wilkes, an accomplice in a scam concocted by her ex-husband that included kidnapping Katherine Chancellor and marrying her maid Esther Valentine, who stood to inherit part of her employer's estate. But when Genoa City's finest catches on, Annie and her ex escape, only to be caught at the Canadian border. 

Playing a criminal must have been a fun diversion for Wallace, who by that time had already distinguished herself on TV as the voice of elementary schoolteacher Edna Krabappel, a role she played for 24 seasons since 1990 on the animated sitcom "The Simpsons." The portrayal even netted her an Emmy in 1992. But her first major stint dates back as 1972, when she played witty receptionist Carol Kester for six seasons on "The Bob Newhart Show." Once that sitcom ended, Wallace wound up on the walk-up circuit, appearing on the likes of "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island," and "ALF." Shortly after starting on "The Simpsons," she also landed frequent gigs as a voice-over artist on "Darkwing Duck" and a few episodes playing Mrs. Carruthers on "Full House."

After successfully surviving a lengthy battle with breast cancer, Wallace died of pneumonia at 70. "So sad to learn ... of the passing of the wonderful Marcia Wallace," tweeted "Simpsons" colleague Harry Shearer when he heard the news. "Sorely missed already."